Goodreads: Julia’s House for Lost Creatures
Julia and her walking house arrive in town, but Julia soon decides that her place is too quiet. After inviting lost creatures to live with her, Julia thinks she has solved her problem–but now the mermaids, trolls, and dragons are proving to be loud and messy! Can Julia and her lost creatures find a way to live together?
Julia’s House for Lost Creatures presents the charming tale of a girl who longs for company, but must find a way for herself and a host of different magical creatures to live together in harmony. A distinct lack of detail attempts to keep the mystery and magic alive–Julia and her walking house arrive, unexplained in town (where did they come from? why are they here? why does she have a walking house at all?)–while beautiful illustrations draw readers further into the unique world of the story. However, though I found the book a pleasant read, this is the first picture book that stuck me as the basis for what could be an even better novel.
To keep detail at a minimum so readers feel there is magic and mystery beyond their understanding has its place. Norton Juster employs a variation of this technique in The Phantom Tollbooth, in which a tollbooth appears unexplained to great effect (though, personally, I was always bothered by the nagging thought that Juster himself did not know the origin of his own tollbooth). In this case, however, the lack of detail at the beginning of the story seems a bit of an easy way to scream “magical!” so that the book can get on with the story already. Picture books have certain word count limitations, after all, and this one seems to want to use them all on creatures not doing chores.
But, really, there is so much potential here! Readers could know a little more about Julia and her walking house without diminishing the mystery and the magic. Readers could actually learn about the new inhabitants of the house so they feel invested in them. Why are these mermaids and dragons and trolls lost? Are they misunderstood? Are they living in a world where modernity is wiping out magic? Are they wanted for demanding unauthorized tolls or for eating fair maidens? Surely there are more interesting things about them than their propensity to create messes!
Julia’s House for Lost Creatures is a cute picture book and I enjoyed it as such. However, I really wanted more from this story. The medium in which it was presented simply did not seem, to me, to acknowledge everything the story has to offer. Give me a middle-grade novel or even an animated film of this and I would, I have no doubt, be utterly blown away by its charm and imagination.